I Found It on the Internet Teaching Students to Locate_ Evaluate

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					I Found It on the Internet
     Teaching Students to
   Locate, Evaluate, and Cite
    Credible Online Sources

      Dennis G. Jerz
    Monday, Jan. 28, 2002
                             Illustration: The Internet

         Procrastinating Student

                                                                                The Internet at 4am

Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam”, Sistine Chapel
 Some instructors feel this way instead…

      It Came from                                           Factual errors and commercial plugs…
      the Internet!                                          Garish colors and blinking text…
                                                             Anonymous, undated, biased claims…
                                                             Cheesy background music… An infinite
                                                             number of monkeys at their keyboards…
                                                             The destruction of objectivity, reflection,
                                                             and independent thought.
                                                             As all that is true and accurate falls before
                                                             all that is searchable and downloadable.
Adapted from It Came from Outer Space , Universal Pictures

   Teaching students to…

Credible Online Sources
      What is an online source?
• ?
• -- online chapter of a McIntyre book?
• A Personal Website
   – …with a long passage pasted from a news story?
   – …with an original, eyewitness account of a recent
• A government document found at the Library of Congress
• An academic article accessed via the McIntyre Library
        Locating Online Sources
    – Encyclopedia Britannica
    – Oxford English Dictionary
    Evaluating Online Sources
         Citing Online Sources
• MLA BibBuilder
• APA Style
  – “Direct readers as closely as possible to the information
    being cited; whenever possible, reference specific
    documents rather than home or menu pages.”
  – “Provide addresses that work.”
         Problems Finding URLs?

• Always keep printouts.
• Real researchers want their work to be easily cited. If you
  can’t find the URL, find a better source.
• As a last resort, attach the printout and cite it.
         Why Bother to Cite?
• It’s arcane, meaningless busywork designed to
  keep me from getting the “A” my tuition paid for.
• To prove that I found the magic number of sources
  the assignment called for.
• To prove that I haven’t plagiarized.
• So my instructor can read my sources and check
  whether I applied them correctly.
• To model the methods of academic inquiry.
 Academic Inquiry (for newbies)
• Seeking “Truth” by comparing the merits of
  differing professional opinions
• Building upon existing, trusted scholarship
• Not trying to “win” a battle or make friends.
   – “I am right.” Or, “My wonderful professor is right.”
   – Anyone who thinks otherwise is stupid, superstitious,
     racist, sexist, a terrorist, unfeeling, etc.
• Complex, rather than simplistic theses.
• “Slavery was bad.” vs. “Alex Haley’s plagiarism and
  historical inaccuracies in Roots damaged the integrity of
  the civil rights movement.”
             Credible Sources
• Author & Date of Publication?
  – Hacking the URL
• Context
• Design
           Design and Credibility
•    Professional Design
•    Little or No Design
•    Flashy, “Cool” Design
•    Amateur Design
    –   Background sounds & images
    –   Garish colors & multicolored text
    –   Poor or nonexistent navigation
    –   Large text
  Credibility and Human Nature
• Paradox of the Active User
  – The belief that you will save time by ignoring
    the instructions.
  – Asking for directions vs. driving when lost
• Foraging Behavior
   – Survival instinct: conserve resources
   – Electrons: path of least resistance
Research & the Napster Generation
• Researchers rarely give their best stuff away for
  free on the Internet.
   – Researchers save some of their best stuff for books.
   – Books and printed articles are, in most fields, more
     valuable to the individual researcher’s career.
• The Napster generation wants it for free.
• The Napster generation wants it for free, NOW.
• Too bad librarians don’t work at 4am.
     Is Microsoft a Monopoly?
• The Department of Justice vs. Microsoft
• The Department of Justice vs. a software
• The Department of Justice vs. the freedom
  to innovate
Search for “monopoly” on
            Online Journalism
• Foraging behavior brings students to online
  journalism websites.
• News & magazine articles are easier to read than
  academic papers.
• But the news reports are not experts in the subject
  matter (child psychology, international politics,
• It’s worse than that!
• (Opportunity for a critical thinking exercise.)
        Jupiter Communications
• (Now Jupiter Media Metrix)
• Sells research. Custom research – designed
  to make the customer look good.
   – I start my own church tonight.
   – I sign up my wife and son tomorrow.
   – My membership shot up to 300%!

• Jupiter’s fun with statistics:
     Surge in Salon Subscribers
        Credible Online Sources
• Be critical of info on a .com website.
• Be critical of info on a .edu website
   – Does the URL include a course number?
   – Rules for giving conference talks & posting classroom
     lecture notes aren’t very stringent; can be inaccurate.
• Be critical of info on a .org website.
   – Activist organizations try to get you to think of an issue
     in terms that exclude alternative viewpoints:
      • Is smoking a matter of public health, or personal freedom?
      • Is a tax cut a “welcome return to sensible government” or a
        “compassionless strike against the disadvantaged masses”?
   – NOW, NRA, PETA, and the ACLU are not ethically
     bound to present any point of view but their own.
• Be critical of all information – online or not.
         The Horror! The Horror!

• Students may be thinking…
• “How am I supposed to know whether every
  article I read online is biased? I’m not an expert!
  I have no idea how to confirm every fact!”
• But the answer is…
  – Find articles in peer-reviewed journals!
  – You know that two or three experts have approved of
    the article before publishing it!

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